Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sierra Leone: The Culture & People

Sierra Leone, about the size of South Carolina, was a British colony until 1961.  There was peace until war broke out in the '90s, mostly fighting over the control of lucrative diamond mines.  The war lasted 11 long years and ravaged the countryside.

People living in villages in the provinces lived in fear and fled as they could.  Rebel soldiers leuted, killed, burned, raped, and destroyed lives and property.  Children were forced to fight, even made to kill and mame their own family members.

During this time, many fled to the capital city, Freetown, for safety.  Eventually, the war moved into town as well.  No one was safe.

The people of Sierra Leone are still living daily with the effects of the war, which ended about 8 years ago.    An estimated 350,000 orphans are living with whomever will give them shelter.  The poverty conditions are unimaginable.   Many who lost limbs or were mutilated during the war are on the streets begging for whatever anyone is willing to give.  

Most "homes" consists of a few pieces of corrugated tin held up by by a couple of poles.  The nice homes are concrete and consist of 2-3 rooms, if you are lucky.  No running water.  Sporadic electriciy, if any.  If they are lucky enough to find work, transportation is a huge issue.  Medical care is basically non-existant.  What medical care there is, is worse than the worst public health facility America has to offer.

Families who can  afford to send their children to school are the minority.  Educating an elementary school child costs several months of the average salary.  Most children don't attend school at all.  They are forced to work in order to help their family survive.  I'm not talking about taking a job at McDonald's...there are none.  I'm talking about roaming the streets trying to sell whatever wares their parents provide for them, collecting anything they can find to sell (nuts, fruit, popping popcorn and packaging it in small bags, etc.)  There are children who break rocks by hand for construction companies to buy, beg or worse - to get whatever they can.

The maternal mortality rate is 1 in 8.  For every 8 women that give birth, one of them dies.  20% of children born do not live to see their 5th birthday.  The average life expectancy is somewhere around 40.

And yet, in these dire circumstances, the people of Sierra Leone have survived.  They received us with a warm welcome and opened their hearts and homes to us.  They are strong, enduring and even thankful for their lives and each day God gives them.   They are beautiful people and I feel priviledged to have had the honor to have been able to share a few short days with them.

Picture taking is not well accepted, so I wasn't able to get as many pictures of the people as I would've liked.  They've been taken advantage of by so many others that they don't trust people and don't want their lives on display for the wrong reasons.  Cameras have been confiscated by the police, so we were warned to keep ours out of sight, especially when the vehicle was stopped.  These are a few images I was able to collect of the landscape and people of Sierra Leone.

The airport in Freetown.  About the size of Price Cutter.

This is a main road.  Paved and fairly good.

There were TONS of partially finished buildings.  Everything constructed from
concrete blocks.  At first we thought they were old and must've been destroyed during the war,
but come to find out, they are new construction projects.

The city of Freetown has over 2 million people and is 
built into the sides of 2-3 mountains.

View from the front of The Covering, the orphanage
we were there to support.

A lady carrying a bowl on her head, which was holding her 
merchandise to sell.

A school building.  Lots of rooms, lots of kids with one teacher
and a chalkboard.  Nothing like school in America.

Traffic was insane.  Cars everywhere and everyone honking.
No traffic lights or even many signs.  Officers stood at the 
larger instersections and directed traffic.  Many, many
people walking on the road, crossing the road, all the time.  The drivers
get SO close to the people on the street...the people don't move and neither
do the cars.  We were clenching our teeth and closing our eyes, praying no one got 
run over!

On our way to the orphanage.   This is a very nice part of town.

Those are eggs on her head!

A group of men hanging out under a tree.  They are out of work.

A group of people bathing and doing laundry in a stream.

These homes are typical, but there are many worse.  These are at least concrete.  Most
are tin.


  1. Jodi...I learned about The Raining Season about a month ago, and my husband and I have been praying about if/how we should work with them. Through researching them, I somehow found your blog.

    Thank you for sharing this! It's good to learn about it all this way. I look forward to learning more.

    Also...glad you made it home safely!


  2. This is what I see daily, I have seen people living in cardboard boxes, we are truly blessed, glad your back safe and sound.